Opinion: Avoid haphazard builds to get the most from VoIP

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Opinion: Avoid haphazard builds to get the most from VoIP

Organisations are overlooking the security risks, planning considerations and business needs in the rush to capitalise on VoIP, argues ISPhone’s James Spenceley.

Research on the VoIP industry in the Asia-Pacific region, indicates that within the next few years, VoIP will account for the majority of business telephony systems.

Greater sophistication inherent in technology associated with VoIP, and the associated features, applications and functionality continues to provide more compelling reasons to adopt IP based telephony systems.

VoIP can provide significant competitive advantages. That said, VoIP is a relatively new technology, as opposed to traditional telephony which have long since transitioned to being considered a utility in terms of reliability.

In the rush to capitalise on VoIP benefits for companies – such as reduced call costs and the ability to integrate with business apps such as CRM – it’s imperative to get the foundations of IP telephony right. This includes seamless integration of voice into the data network, assessing business needs, planning well, and considering security risks from the outset.

Rapid adoption of VoIP, if ill-considered or ill-planned, can lead to unreliable and at worst, costly builds. Disparate hardware, software and network services, a hotchpotch of poorly integrated systems, stymie the ability to reap maximum benefits from VoIP and can reinforce the reputation that IP telephony is not yet ready for prime time.

Getting VoIP up and running often involves having to replace or update the underlying data network including cabling, routers, firewalls and servers. It also requires a well planned QoS schema and significant documentation and user-training.

Organisations should consider the impact of such a migration and strive to understand the implications from the outset, rather than continue to patch and update a large yet ill-planed deployment.

This process may seem overwhelming for some companies, even those with existing IT resources but good providers who take steps to educate the customer as well as plan the IP telephony migration will make the difference between headache and heaven.

Ensure your architecture is secure before you introduce a VoIP deployment.

With VoIP, traffic traverses the data network, therefore it is vulnerable to the same threats as data networks. Security vulnerabilities or unreliable VoIP systems can cause business interruptions, loss of customer confidence, and costs from missed business opportunities. Voice is a serious business and that is something every needs to understand.

Commonly, there is often one company or department responsible for the data network, and another for the voice network. This can lead to blame and muddy the waters if responsibilities aren’t clear-cut.

Selecting a VoIP provider who has the ability to provide the network infrastructure will reduce the number of parties involved and place a clear point of responsibility on that provider is probably the most important consideration, don’t place yourself in the middle of the ISP, carrier and VoIP provider blame game.

With VoIP, voice traffic needs to be treated as a better class than the data traffic if it will share a common medium. If both voice and data is on the one network, it is even more important that QoS and network architecture is well considered. VoIP providers have to acknowledge that networks will become increasingly vulnerable to security breaches.

Some companies get encryption over their VoIP network, to ensure there are no threats. Additionally, if an organisation has many offices around the world, VoIP providers have to make sure VoIP security meets the requirements of various countries/jurisdictions.

System availability is a fundamental consideration in VoIP implementations, and it’s not always simple, given that it heavily platform and solution dependant. Secure, high quality VoIP services requires significant attention to system design.

Well-built, sound foundation avoids disappointments

While VoIP has been much-touted as a way to ‘future-proof’ a business’ telephony systems, customers can be put off by having to integrate a bewildering array of hardware, software and services. The promise of cost-savings alone is not enough to get organisations over the line, especially when faced with a time consuming and potentially business impacting transition.

VoIP users have long wrestled with the challenges of disparate IT environments, and the core advantages driving VoIP aren’t new. What’s changed, according to solutions providers, is that software, standards and best-practices methodologies have come to the forefront of industry bodies and have been accepted by providers and integrations, well certainly those at the better end of the market.

Users will no longer put up with a hodgepodge of heavily customised, disparate systems that require resource-intensive management, for all customers, IT and systems is not their core business, why should they spend a large portion of their internal resource supporting and maintaining these systems. With VoIP, a thorough pre-installation review of systems and business requirements will slash the time and costs of VoIP implementation, and not leave the customer feeling like they are fast becoming an IT consultant themselves.

Companies can’t afford to be distracted from their core business, unless their integrator or VoIP provider understands they will end up devoting more and more energy into their IT systems. Yet, a well integrated and planned installation will leave the customer wondering how they used to do business ‘the old way’. A user should never be left troubleshooting their own network or searching for the responsible provider, be it the Integrator, ISP or VoIP provider.

Organisations are not just focused on cost-savings, they like all of us want smooth functioning technology that increases their business efficiency. Integrated VoIP solution unifies the organisation’s communications, delivers cost savings, helps grow the business even further and general makes individuals work smart not hard.

What to check before you can start a business grade VoIP roll-out

- There’s a better than 50 percent chance of outages and poor quality for those that don’t do a thorough analysis of the current network and undertake a pre-VoIP upgrade or evaluation. People need to understand their cabling limitation, their routers and most importantly their switches.

- Quality of service is paramount. In a VoIP system, all business communications run over the one network, including voice telephony, internet and email, and access to data files and databases, all traffic is not the same.

- Conventional PABX systems are known for their reliability. To get that same reliability with IP telephony, a re-design of the technology infrastructure is often required.

- Because a basic IP telephony is highly dependent on a reliable LAN and WAN environment, minor problems can result in the loss of the ability to make or receive phone calls, yet a cleverly designed solution will route around these problems.

- We can’t help but assume that many years ago, the standard telephony network had an even hard time gaining reliability, for VoIP it’s only a matter of time, but selecting the rights partners certainly can speed things up.

James Spenceley is CTO at ISPhone and has over ten years experience in the Australian VoIP industry.


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